Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

under the name of scacci alla rabiosa. The time of the first important writer on modern chess, the Spaniard Ruy Lopez de Segura (1561), is also the period when the latest improvement, castling, was introduced, for his book (Libra de la invention liberal y arte del juego del Axedrez), though treating of it as already in use, also gives the old mode of play, which allowed the king a leap of two or three squares. Shortly afterwards the old shatranj disappears altogether. Lopez was the first who merits the name of chess analyst. At this time flourished the flower of the Spanish and Italian schools of chess—the former represented by Lopez, Ceron, Santa Maria, Busnardo and Avalos; the latter by Giovanni Leonardo da Cutri (il Puttino) and Paolo Boi (il Syracusano). In the years 1562–1575 both Italian masters visited Spain and defeated their Spanish antagonists. During the whole 17th century we find but one worthy to be mentioned, Giacchino Greco (il Calabrese). The middle of the 18th century inaugurates a new era in chess. The leading man of this time was François André Danican Philidor. He was born in 1726 and was trained by M. de Kermur, Sire de Légal, the star of the Cafe de la Régence in Paris, which has been the centre of French chess ever since the commencement of the 18th century. In 1747 Philidor visited England, and defeated the Arabian player, Phillip Stamma, by 8 games to 1 and 1 draw. In 1749 he published his Analyse des échecs, a book which went through more editions and was more translated than any other work upon the game. During more than half a century Philidor travelled much, but never went to Italy, the only country where he could have found opponents of first-rate skill. Italy was represented in Philidor’s time by Ercole del Rio, Lolli and Ponziani. Their style was less sound than that of Philidor, but certainly a much finer and in principle a better one. As an analyst the Frenchman was in many points refuted by Ercole del Rio (“the anonymous Modenese”). Blindfold chess-play, already exhibited in the 11th century by Arabian and Persian experts, was taken up afresh by Philidor, who played on many occasions three games simultaneously without sight of board or men. These exhibitions were given in London, at the Chess Club in St James’s Street, and Philidor died in that city in 1795. As eminent players of this period must be mentioned Count Ph. J. van Zuylen van Nyevelt (1743–1826), and the German player, J. Allgaier (1763–1823). after whom a well-known brilliant variation of the King’s Gambit is named. Philidor was succeeded by Alexandre Louis Honoré Lebreton Deschapelles (1780–1847), who was also a famous whist player. The only player who is known to have fought Deschapelles not unsuccessfully on even terms is John Cochrane. He also lost a match (1821) to W. Lewis, to whom he conceded the odds of “pawn and move,” the Englishman winning one and drawing the two others. Deschapelles’ greatest pupil, and the strongest player France ever possessed, was Louis Charles Mahé de la Bourdonnais, who was born in 1797 and died in 1840. His most memorable achievement was his contest with the English champion, Alexander Macdonnell, the French player winning in the proportion of three to two.

The English school of chess began about the beginning of the 19th century, and Sarratt was its first leader. He flourished from 1808 to 1821, and was followed by his great pupil, W. Lewis, who will be principally remembered for his writings. His literary career belongs to the period from 1818 to 1848 and he died in 1869. A. Macdonnell (1798–1835) has been already mentioned. To the same period belong also Captain Evans, the inventor of the celebrated “Evans Gambit” (1828), who died at a very advanced age in 1873; Perigal, who participated in the correspondence matches against Edinburgh and Paris; George Walker, for thirty years chess editor of Bell’s Life in London; and John Cochrane, who met every strong player from Deschapelles downwards. In the same period Germany possessed but one good player, J. Mendheim of Berlin. The fifth decade of the 19th century is marked by the fact that the leadership passed from the French school to the English. After the death of la Bourdonnais, Fournié de Saint-Amant became the leading player in France; he visited England in the early part of 1843, and successfully met the best English players, including Howard Staunton (q.v.); but the latter soon took his revenge, for in November and December 1843 a great match between Staunton and Saint-Amant took place in Paris, the English champion winning by 11 games to 6 with 4 draws. During the succeeding eight years Staunton maintained his reputation by defeating Popert, Horwitz and Harrwitz. Staunton was defeated by Anderssen at the London tournament in 1851, and this concluded his match-playing career. Among the contemporaries of Staunton may be mentioned Henry Thomas Buckle, author of the History of Civilization, who defeated Kieseritzki, Anderssen and Löwenthal.

In the ten years 1830–1840 a new school arose in Berlin, the seven leaders of which have been called “The Pleiades.” These were Bledow (1795–1846), Bilguer (1815–1840), Hanstein (1810–1850), Mayet (1810–1868), Schorn (1802–1850), B. Horwitz (b. 1809) and von Heydebrandt und der Lasa, once German ambassador at Copenhagen. As belonging to the same period must be mentioned the three Hungarian players, Grimm, Szen and J. Löwenthal.

Among the great masters since the middle of the 19th century Paul Morphy (1837–1884), an American, has seldom been surpassed as a chess player. His career was short but brilliant. Born in New Orleans in 1837, he was taught chess by his father when only ten years of age, and in two years’ time became a strong player. When not quite thirteen he played three games with Löwenthal, and won two of them, the other being drawn. He was twenty years of age when he competed in the New York congress of 1857, where he won the first prize. In 1858 he visited England, and there defeated Boden, Medley, Mongrédien, Owen, Bird and others. He also beat Löwenthal by 9 games to 3 and 2 drawn. In the same year he played a match at Paris with Harrwitz, winning by 5 to 2 and 1 drawn; and later on he obtained a victory over Anderssen. On two or three occasions he played blindfold against eight strong players simultaneously, each time with great success. He returned to America in 1859 and continued to play, but with decreasing interest in the game, until 1866. He died in 1884.

Wilhelm Steinitz (b. 1836) took the sixth prize at the London congress of 1862. He defeated Blackburne in a match by 7 to 1 and 2 drawn. In 1866 he beat Anderssen in a match by 8 games to 6. In 1868 he carried off the first prize in the British Chess Association handicap, and in 1872 in the London grand tourney, also defeating Zukertort in a match by 7 games to 1 and 4 drawn. In 1873 he carried off the first prize at the Vienna congress; and in 1876 he defeated Blackburne, winning 7 games right off. In 1872–1874, in conjunction with W. N. Potter, he conducted and won a telegraphic correspondence match for London against Vienna. In Philidor’s age it was considered almost incredible that he should be able to play three simultaneous games without seeing board or men, but Paulsen, Blackburne and Zukertort often played 10 or 12 such games, while as many as 14 and 15 have been so played.

In 1876 England was in the van of the world’s chess army. English-born players then were Boden, Burn, Macdonnell, Bird, Blackburne and Potter; whilst among naturalized English players were Löwenthal, Steinitz, Zukertort, who died in 1888, and Horwitz. This illustrious contingent was reinforced in 1878 by Mason, an Irish-American, who came over for the Paris tournament; by Gunsberg, a Hungarian; and later by Teichmann, who also made England his home. English chess flourished under the leadership of these masters, the chief prizes in tournaments being consistently carried off by the English representatives.

To gauge the progress made by the game since about 1875 it will suffice to give the following statistics. In London Simpson’s Divan was formerly the chief resort of chess players; the St George’s Chess Club was the principal chess club in the West End, and the City of London Chess Club in the east. About a hundred or more clubs are now scattered all over the city. Formerly only the British Chess Association existed; after its dissolution the now defunct Counties’ Chess Association took